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THE WIZARD OF THE KREMLIN

An authoritative but skewed look at recent Russian history.

Part fiction and part freewheeling analysis, an insider's look at the world of Vladimir Putin.

The book's narrator is Vadim Baranov, a fictional stand-in for Vladislav Surkov, the young ideologue and spin doctor known as "Putin's Rasputin." Baranov becomes attached to Putin in the late 1990s, when Putin is the largely unknown head of the FSB. With his background in theater and television, Baranov becomes part of media-savvy billionaire Boris Berezovsky's campaign to promote Putin as a strong, decisive, fear-inspiring replacement for the boozing, ideologically soft Boris Yeltsin. The Russian people, Putin's supporters say, crave a return to the time when the Kremlin "set the tone" and "had a certain moral superiority over the private sector." And also when cell phones didn't ring during performances of the Bolshoi Ballet. Culturally hip with references to Sex and the City, Johnny Depp, and Putin's appearance on Larry King Live, the cooly detached Baranov is less interested in exposing the sins of the president, to whom he refers as tsar, than tossing off pithy observations, opinions, and hard insights in what amounts to an epic monologue. With elements of Baranov's personal life mixed into the narrative, the book can be quite entertaining—though not for those unhappy with Baranov's essentially admiring portrait of Putin, which da Empoli, who was an advisor to former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, does little to diffuse. First published in 2022 in France and then Italy, this bestselling, prize-winning quasi-novel was viewed by some as dangerous propaganda at a time when Putin was waging war in Ukraine. "Power is like the sun, like death: you can’t look at it head-on," the author writes, highlighting one of his own shortcomings.

An authoritative but skewed look at recent Russian history.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9781635423952

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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MIND GAMES

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

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Roberts’ latest may move you to tears, or joy, or dread, or all three.

Every summer, John and Cora Fox visit Cora’s mother, Lucy Lannigan, in Redbud Hollow, Kentucky, leaving their children, 12-year-old Thea and 10-year-old Rem, for a two-week taste of heaven. The children love Grammie Lucy far more than John’s snooty family, which looks down on Cora. Lucy, a healer with deep Appalachian roots, loves animals, cooks the best meals, plays musical instruments, and makes soap and candles for her thriving business. Thea—who’s inherited the psychic abilities passed down through the women of Lucy’s family—has vivid magical dreams, one of which becomes a living nightmare when a psychopath robs and murders John and Cora as Thea watches helplessly. Thea’s description of the killer and her ability to see him in real time help the skeptical police catch Ray Riggs, who goes to prison for life. Although Thea and Rem go on to have a wonderful childhood with Grammie, Thea constantly wages a mental battle with Riggs, who tries to use his own psychic abilities to get into her mind. Over the years, Thea uses her imagination to become a game designer while the more business-minded Rem helps manage her career. Thea eventually builds a house near Lucy, where a newly arrived neighbor is her teen crush, singer-songwriter Tyler Brennan. Tyler has his own issues and is protective of his young son but slowly builds a loving relationship with Thea, whose silence about her abilities leads to a devastating misunderstanding. At first Thea tries to keep Riggs locked out of her mind. As her powers grow, she torments him. Finally, she realizes that she must win this battle and destroy him if she’s ever to have peace.

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781250289698

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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